Many courts are not currently operating as they did before during this shutdown. They are, however, open, and processing some cases. Here, in Texas, our state courts are holding “essential” hearings, via Zoom. Essential hearings, in the context of Texas Family Law cases, consist of those concerning matters such as temporary restraining orders, CPS child removal, and applications for protective orders (due to allegations of family violence). All others, such as routine divorce temporary orders hearings, are presently not occurring before June 1, 2020.

But, that does not mean that you cannot file a divorce case, and begin moving towards finalizing it now. In fact, all 254 Texas counties are now enabled, and using, electronic filings. That means that your lawyer can use the state’s electronic filing services to file your divorce. And, since your divorce must be on file for sixty (60) days or more before being finalized, the partial closing of the courts (for non-essential hearings) should pose no challenge to finalizing your divorce case.[1]

So, how does a divorce case work now? Many firms, such as ours, are still working remotely. But, that is not a problem, since information can be provided electronically, as can payments.

Upon receipt, we will take that information, and prepare divorce pleadings for you (based on that information). When those pleadings are drafted, we will electronically file your pleadings, thereby starting the court case. When received, the District Clerk’s Office reviews the pleadings to ensure compliance with the filing rules for your county, as well as those for the State of Texas, before accepting them. Those accepted pleadings are file-marked, and then returned to us electronically.

Once we have received those file-marked pleadings, we will send a copy of them to you, and to a court-approved Legal Process Server (if service of those pleadings to your spouse is requited in your case). If your case is agreed (and no formal service of process is required), then those pleadings can be emailed to your spouse, along with a document waiving that formal service.

From that point, we handle your case much as we would have prior to COVID-19.[2] That includes requesting, and setting, hearings for such matters as temporary orders (to occur on June 1st or later). Also, written discovery requests (such as interrogatories, request for production, request for disclosure, and request for admissions) can be served.[3] Then, when we are ready to proceed with finalizing your case, we will set it for a Final Hearing, negotiate with the opposing party (unless all case issues are already agreed to), and take care of any pre-requisites (such as mediation) to finalizing your divorce. And, of course, we will be communicating with you about your case, at each step.

Texas courts are operating now (handling “essential” matters, only), and are scheduled to reopen further on June 1, 2020. Even now, though, Texas Family Law matters, such as divorces, are being processed. And, although we are working remotely, we are still accepting new clients, and handling our existing cases.


[1]Of course, the courts may be later ordered to re-close, but for now, the plan is to reopen them to non-essential matters (whether virtually, or physically) on June 1st.

[2]In-person, oral depositions (if desired for your case) might not occur precisely as they did before.

[3]Discovery requests are formal mechanisms for obtaining relevant case information. Often, they are served on the other party, to require him or her to provide information to us, such as bank account and credit card records, a listing of their activities, who their intended witnesses are, and what they contend the court should do in your case.

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